Phil’s eyes widened in fear. Oh please no, he thought.
Then it came.
A deluge of sneezes, each one louder and more gross than the last. His eyes watered, his nose began to run with wild abandon, and with each thunderous ACHOO, something happened.
The lights flickered. The stapler stapled on its own. A car alarm went off outside.
There was no stopping it. No secret remedy or drugstore brand or ancient otherworldly substance could hinder his superheroic sneezes.
For yes, Phil was secretly a superhero, and as everyone knows, all superheroes have a weakness.
Phil’s weakness? Allergy season.
Crap, crap, crap, he thought as he reached for a tissue and discovered it was the last one. Before he could stop it, another sneeze blasted forth, making the lights flicker once more, and then shut off.
Darryl, his cubicle-mate, rose from his swivel chair to peek over the wall of their enclosure and look around. “What the hell?”
“What indeed,” Phil said in his congested voice. He caught the next sneeze in the tissue, which lessened the blow. This time only his desk rattled, toppling his Captain America action figure.
“Damn electric surges again,” Darryl said as he sat back down. “The power company really needs to get on that.”
Phil pinched the bridge of his nose to relieve some sinus pressure. “Uh, yeah, they really do…”
He felt Darryl’s eyes on him, and fear leapt in his throat that Darryl had finally put two and two together. But then Darryl turned back to his computer and wiggled his mouse.
Nothing happened. His screen had gone black. “Oh come on!”
Phil nudged his mouse and pressed the space bar, but to no avail. His computer was down too.
Grumbling arose from the other cubicles. Heads popped up over plastic walls and the same question echoed throughout the office. Phil blew his nose and sighed. It was a really bad sign when all the computers – and the backup generator – went down at an IT company, and twice in one month. Oops…
Darryl lifted the phone to his ear, then waved it around. “They’re down too? What the hell?”
Phil was using saltier language in his head as he glanced at his calender and saw there was still a solid month and a half until summer. Until the pollen – his microscopic nemesis – would finally retreat and grant him some peace.
Then he sat up straight – his sneezing had stopped! He inhaled and exhaled, revelling in his newfound ability to breathe. But he couldn’t enjoy his sneezeless freedom for long. He had to create another surge without anyone noticing. Better do it in private though. Darryl’s getting more suspicious…
He stood and headed for the bathroom, but Darryl called out to him.
“Hey where are you going? What should we do?”
Phil flashed a grin. “Did you try turning it off and then-”
“Don’t say it! Don’t you dare…”
As Darryl went back to arguing with his computer, Phil snuck off to the restroom.
A moment later, a low hum ran through the walls and wires. The lights flickered on. The car alarm outside finally stopped. Computer screens came back to life, and the IT team cheered. Phil returned to his desk, righted his Cap action figure again, and got back to work. Keyboards and mice clicked, and the regular chatter of customer service questions and answers filled the air.
Phil scratched his nose absentmindedly. It was starting to itch again. He froze.